Daily Journey is a collection of my thoughts from reading The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living. My objective is to gain greater control of my emotional responses by reading and sharing my thoughts on stoicism with you all everyday over the course of a year. If you would like to explore these topics with me, and others who are seeking to gain emotional control come over to the Mastery of Skill closed facebook group to join in on the conversation.
April 1st – The Color of Your Thoughts
The things we think about persistently have the ability to affect our thoughts, and through our thoughts shape our actions and lives.
If those thoughts are negative and degrading we darken our thoughts over time and become cynical and malcontent.
If our thoughts are positive and uplifting we brighten our minds and over time become optimistic and positive.
What thoughts regularly cross your mind? How are they affecting your life?
April 2nd – Be Wary of What You Let In
What influences do you allow in your life and what do they do to your thoughts and perceptions?
Not all sources of information are worthy of your attention and can have a corrupting influence on your thoughts, and through your thoughts your they can influence your actions.
One of the Stoic practices is intentional ignorance. If you know a certain type of media (reality tv, tabloid news, inflammatory news etc.) can influence your thoughts and actions then you should cut it out of your life.
The same is true for false and toxic people. You can control who you let inside your sphere of influence.
If the source is unworthy, cut it out.
April 3rd – Deceived and Divided
Are your actions at odds with the things you tell yourself you want?
If they are you are wither being dishonest with yourself about your true desire or you haven’t taken the time to fully understand what it is you want in the first place.
A good example of this was when I was way over-weight and running 4 or more miles a day… “but” I was still eating and drinking whatever (and whenever) I wanted. There were days when I would push myself as hard as possible … and then spend 3 hours watching hulu and eating chips and ice cream.
What did I really want? I would say I wanted to loose that extra weight, even though my actions didn’t really support that stated desire.
Years later I think realized I literally wanted to have my cake and eat it too. But now I know I can’t. To be healthy I had to control both my exercise and my diet.
While I’m not exactly were I want to be, I am better now then I was then. Most importantly I am getting better every day.
Take a look at your actions… are they really lined up with your desired outcomes?
April 5th – Trust, But Verify
Misunderstanding of this statement has caused a lot of consternation in my life (and I’m sure in others). I try not confuse the processes going on here. Trust being separate to verification but both playing an interdependent role in the creation of the other…. wait what?
For the sake of this discussion lets say that trust is a mechanism of speed in decision making. Without trust a lot of decision making grinds to a halt. But trust doesn’t exist on its own it has a relationship with verification. Without verification I believe your are not really trusting you are gambling… your trust is actually hope (and hope is not a plan).
Trust comes from two main sources, it is either referred or observed. Observable trust is built by repeatedly seeing verifiable truth in results. While referred trust comes when a trusted sources refers another source of information to you in order to influence your decision making.
An example of observed trust would be that I say I love my kids and I do things that they recognize as signs of me loving them, therefore they trust that I love them. In this case verification fortifies trust and my kids decide that I love them.
Referred trust could be a trusted mentor recommending that I go and consult another unknown person on a decision I have to make. The mentors trust in the new source is transferred via our relationship. Again my trust in my mentor fortifies the trust I have in my new source of information.
I hope you can see the potential risks in establishing trust. These processes can be (and likely are) manipulated in order to have an effect on your decision making. Actions can be faked, relationships can be manipulative. Your verification skills my be underdeveloped.
It can be a lot to think about. That’s why I prefer a small shift in the phrase that may not seem that significant on the surface. but helps me simplify the process. Instead of saying “trust, but verify,” which seemingly breaks the process into separate parts I like to join them together by saying
Overall, just remember this is a skill that can be developed through practice and experience.
April 6th – Prepare Yourself For Negativity
I love this concept…
Do you have someone in your life that really makes you mad? A person that grinds your gears so bad you rage inside and out? Who is it? Got a name?
More than likely you have someone in mind, but you are wrong.
You let make yourself mad…. let that sink in. YOU make yourself mad. No one else controls this emotional response and you shouldn’t empower anyone with that level of influence on you.
Now, let’s look at this from the perspective of negativity. The world is full of negative situations, problems, and things to worry about. Here’s the deal, in the face of this negativity, you can elect to be positive. These things swirling around you do not control your negative or positive disposition… YOU do!
Give it a try today and see how it goes.
April 7th – Expect To Change Your Opinions
Going into a situation with your mind made up and dead set on an outcome is a surefire way to miss out on what could likely be the most important information in the decision making process.
One of the worst things I’ve seen is when someone puts together a team to solve a problem, with the desired outcome already locked in their mind. Hidden expectations like this will limit the team’s ability to actual solve the problem.
It’s a lot like a jury heading into a courtroom with a decision made up facts and circumstances of the case be damned.
Expecting to change your opinion from the onset isn’t being weak. It is chance to keep an open mind and seek the information needed to find the best solution to problems.
April 8th – The Cost of Accepting Counterfeits
There are lots things we let into our lives with out assessing their veracity. One of the most dangerous is our own feelings. Trusting our gut and intuition is essential to making external judgement… but when was the last time you felt bad about work, or something going on at home, and then stopped to check the integrity of those feelings.
Just because you “feel” a certain way, or think something is right doesn’t mean you should just go with it all the time. You can and should take a step back and assess the way you feel, find the root of your thoughts, and judge whether or not your feelings are based in rational thought and facts.
If you step back and find that you are dealing with true and honest emotions great! If not, reassess before you act, take control of your emotions before they take control of you.
April 9th – Test Your Impressions
We have a lot of hard wired feelings and emotions that have been developed over thousands of years of biological evolution. Sometimes these “gut feelings” help us out, other times they can get in the way because they bypass our mental processes for decision making and drive us straight into emotional decision making.
Developing the skill of stepping back and observing how we are reacting allows us to spot unhealthy or dangerous biases that we are wrongly allowing to influence our actions, decisions, and behaviors.
The stoics taught believe that we need to focus on our negative impressions and step back and really ask why we feel or think that way. If there isn’t a logical or good reason to feel the way we do then we should recognize that we are likely being influenced by some type of cognitive bias. Recognizing these biases in our lives then lets us work through them or around them to make better decisions.
Give a try, next time something sets you off… step back and diagnose why you feel that way. See if you can spot a hidden bias.
April 10th – Judgements Cause Disturbances
When you let your biases get in front of your decision making you are disturbing and ruining your ability to control your reasoned thoughts.
You can fight against this same way as you would isolate unhealthy emotions from your decision making processes. If you have a bias, or if you sense a bias at play, work hard to isolate the bias and look past it to get to the root of the problem or situation in front of you.
Of course some biases are big and nasty like sexism and racism… but there are other more subtle biases that are influencing you all the time. Something simple like ”
it’s too cold to go for a run”… is it really? How about saying to yourself “I don’t like fish”… this is a BIAS holding you back from the dietary benefits of the omega 3’s in fish!
Seriously, take a look for small and large biases that are holding you back and start working your way through them to make better choices.
April 11th – If You Want To Learn, Be Humble
Easier said than done. The first step in learning anything is accepting that you don’t know it in the first place. The next thing you have to do is understand that you will likely need to go to an expert to learn what you need.
This is a lot like asking for help and if you want to learn you will very likely need to be asking someone for help.
Your ego will get in the way.
Your pride will get in the way.
Fear of the unknown will get in the way.
Get over it, you wanted to learn right?
April 12th – Reject Tantalizing Gifts
If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is too good to be true.
You get what you want through discipline and hard work. If things just fall in your lap, they will likely fall away just as easily.
April 13 – Less Is More
The amount of things in our lives is overwhelming. I get it I try to do a lot and often get buried. But the more you focus on a few key things the better everything else becomes.
Out of all the things I do in my day, if I broke it down to the two most influential things in my life they are
– Exercise first thing in the morning
– Meditate in the morning and afternoon
Everything else is simplified when I focus on these two things. The rest of the day starts to fall into place once these two key components are done.
April 14th – Becoming an Expert in What Matters
We willingly through our energy and life focus into so many things. Jobs, hobbies, school, research, games, reading, consuming, stocks, bitcoin and who knows what else.
So much energy gets put into everything else that we miss ourselves.
I know for a fact I am guilty of this.
Taking the time to learn and know yourself. Your thoughts, your habits, your health, your fitness, your goals, and your dreams won’t take away from those other aspects of your life. In fact it will enhance them.
You need to be an expert in YOU before you can be an expert in anything else.
April 15th – Pay Your Taxes
We aren’t just talking about the annual income taxes we all pay here, this is abouting paying your dues and your debts.
You have to put in the work and pay your taxes to get what you want out of life.
Want to be smarter… pay the reading tax.
Want to be faster… pay the running tax.
Want to be stronger… pay the gym tax.
What do you want? What is the tax to get it?
April 16th – Observe Cause and Effect
Every action has a reaction, but do we really take the time to observe the intricacies of cause and effect in our own reactions or the reactions of others?
This is a bigger deal then we realize. Developing the ability to step back and observe what is going on around a situation is often more important then assessing the direct actions (or inactions) of others.
If we stop assuming why things are happening they way they are, and take the time to do the work of understanding the root cause of what is going on, we position ourselves to be of more useful in finding the right solution to the problem.
Our immediate reactions (biases) should be tempered by reasoned thought coupled with a change in perspective to try and see the rest of the story.
April 17th – No Harm, No Foul
If you can stop taking things personally, you will start to see that there was no intention of actually doing you harm in the vast majority of “offensive” situations.
Take a breath, step back, observe, assess, realize you are still in control of your thoughts and actions.